Accentuating the positive is not easy

Accentuating the positive is not as easy as it looks.

Surprisingly and not so surprisingly, schools and districts implementing Positive Behavior Support (PBS) are finding that working with students that have problem behaviors is not the most challenging part of implementing PBS.

The most challenging part is the most positive part–teaching behavioral expectations to all students and providing rewards and reinforcement to students who meet those expectations.

Except for laying down the ground rules at the start of each school year, educators are not used to devoting a lot of thought and effort to educating students about desirable behavior.

For hundreds of years, most educators have taken a reactive rather than a proactive approach to student behavior–expecting and largely ignoring good behavior and responding only to the negative behavior. Even the word “behavior” connotes an infraction, an interruption of the educational process.

Now educators must learn how to accentuate the positive, and it can feel like an unfamiliar and redundant process.

A recent study on how well Maryland schools were implementing PBS recommended that educators teach behavioral expectations in a similar way to academics–with lesson plans. The authors recommend that lessons  be reviewed on a daily basis for the first week of school, on a monthly basis thereafter, and after all vacations and breaks.

On the checklist they used to evaluate fidelity of implementation were these questions on defining and teaching behavioral expectations: Has the school agreed upon 3 to 5 positively stated rules that are publicly displayed in 8 to 10 locations? Does the school have a behavioral rewards system?

Don Kincaid, director of the Florida Positive Behavior Support Project at the University of South Florida, says elementary school teachers expect to teach behavior more than teachers in the upper grades. ” A frequent response is, ‘They should know how to do that (behave) before they come to see us.’ That’s a valid point. But the point is, they don’t. We have to set up a system to make sure that we are still able to address positive behavior and teach appropriately. It is kind of like saying, ‘they should know how to read before they come to us.'”

Read about the latest research study:
Maryland study finds biggest challenge of PBIS is accentuating the positive

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